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Defiance continues in Syria

SANA'A, Yemen -- Embattled President Ali Abdullah Saleh vowed yesterday he would not step down or allow his impoverished nation to become a "failed state," even as urban combat between troops and armed tribesmen engulfed parts of the capital.

Both sides raised the specter of civil war as the three-day death toll rose to 69. The violence comes just days after a failed Arab mediation effort to end the three-month uprising and ease Saleh from power. After nightfall, residents reported heavy shelling that appeared to come from outside the city, targeting residential areas.

In the Arhab region, about 20 miles northwest of Sana'a, a brigade of Saleh's guard clashed with tribesmen. Six government soldiers were killed and 21 injured, an army official said.

So far, 20 government troops and 46 of al-Ahmar's fighters have been killed since Monday.

Saleh's statement, read by spokesman Ahmed al-Soufi in a meeting with tribal allies, ruled out a voluntary departure and blasted U.S.-backed efforts to negotiate his exit after 32 years of authoritarian rule. -- AP

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